After Slashing 33% of Workers in 6 Years, Railroads Complain about Labor Shortages, amid Uproar over Slow Shipments

“No way did I realize how difficult it was going to be to try and get people to come to work these days”: CEO of CSX.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

So there are few hiccups in the US economy right now. James Foote, the chief executive of CSX, one of the largest railroads in the US, put it this way during the earnings call yesterday (transcript by Seeking Alpha):

“I’ve never seen any kind of a thing like this in the transportation environment in my entire career where everything seems to be going sideways at the same time,” he said.

“In January when I got on this [earnings] call, I said we were hiring because we anticipated growth. I fully expected that by now we would have about 500 new T&E [train and engine] employees on the property,” he said. “No way did I or anybody else in the last six months realize how difficult it was going to be to try and get people to come to work these days.”

“It’s an enormous challenge for us to go out and find people that want to be conductors on the railroad, just like it’s hard to find people that want to be baristas or anything else, it’s very, very difficult,” he said.

“Nor did we anticipate that a lot of the people were going to decide they didn’t want to work anymore. So attrition was much higher in the first half of the year than what we had expected,” he said.

“So even though we brought on 200 new employees, we fell short of where we thought we would be by now….”

Railroads are grappling with a weird phenomenon that is a combination of “labor shortages” and 12.6 million people still claiming some form of unemployment compensation, amid stimulus-fueled demand.

And this comes after railroads had spent six years shedding employees in order to tickle Wall Street analysts and pump up stock prices. The North American Class 1 freight railroads combined – BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Canadian National, Kansas City Southern, and Canadian Pacific – have tried to streamline their operations, using fewer but longer trains and making other changes, including under the strategy of “precision scheduled railroading,” implemented first by Canadian National, then by CSX.

The resulting deterioration in service triggered numerous complaints from shippers. But one of the big benefits was that the workforce could be slashed, which fattened the profit margins at the railroads. Wall Street analysts loved it, and it was good for railroad stocks. By now, precision scheduled railroading has become the new religion at all Class 1 railroads except at BNSF, which has not officially adopted it, at least not completely.

In the process, over the past six years, the Class 1 railroads have axed 33% of their workers through layoffs and attrition. According to the Surface of Transportation Board (STB), an independent federal agency that oversees freight railroads, the Class 1 railroads slashed their headcount from 174,000 workers in April 2015 to 116,000 workers in June 2021.

The results of the efforts to hire people back this year are barely visible in the chart – that risible uptick in employment over the past few months. Turns out, it’s a lot easier to cut workers than it is to suddenly hire workers:

Before the railroads blame the 33% cut in the workforce on the pandemic, let’s point out that by February 2020, just before the pandemic, their headcount had already been cut by 46,000 workers, or by 26%, to 128,000. Only 12,000 workers were cut during the pandemic.

Since September 2016 – the beginning of the STB monthly data by individual railroad – the biggest workforce slashers were CSX and Norfolk Southern, which both cut over 30%, and Union Pacific which cut nearly 30%. The other railroads cut far less over that period. But massive cuts occurred in 2015 and 2016, before this by-railroad data began.

During the pandemic, some of the workers were put on furlough, to be recalled more easily. But turns out, not all of them are eager to return to work on the conditions offered by the railroads, including relocation to new assignments.

These cuts in the workforce, and now the scrambling to hire people amid “labor shortages,” is contributing to issues in meeting heavy transportation demand: Union Pacific temporarily suspended traffic from Los Angeles into Chicago, and BNSF has started to meter traffic into Chicago, to allow them to catch up unloading the trains that are stuck in their Chicago railyards. The resulting pot-banging by frustrated shippers has gotten the attention of the STB.

“The railroads cannot strip down to bare-bones operations,” STB chairman Martin Oberman told the Wall Street Journal. “It’d be like a professional football team only having one quarterback.”

The American Chemistry Council – which represents companies in the chemical industry, such as BASF, Chemours (the DuPont spinoff), Chevron Phillips Chemical, DuPont, ExxonMobil Chemical, etc. – lamented in a letter to the STB, cited by the WSJ, that railcars were waiting at railyards for over a week and travel times for some routes more than doubled. Some factories were running out of materials because shipments had gotten hung up and were approaching the point where they’d have to close, and other factories have cut production.

The railroads “clearly weren’t as prepared as they should have been for the increase in traffic,” Jeff Sloan, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at the Council, told the WSJ. The deteriorating service shows that the railroads cut too deep before the pandemic and were unable to catch up, he said.

In line with the executive order from the White House that exhorts agencies to work on making markets more competitive, the STB is now examining what can be done to improve competition among the railroads. Nixing any thought of mergers among Class 1 railroads would be a no-brainer.

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  237 comments for “After Slashing 33% of Workers in 6 Years, Railroads Complain about Labor Shortages, amid Uproar over Slow Shipments

  1. MiTurn says:

    I had a former student who worked for Montana Rail Link, a regional railroad. They kept jerking him around with hours, work stations, and pay — always with promises of this or that — that he finally moved on after many years and changed careers. Granted, not one of the major players, but perhaps representative of the industry.

    • Shiloh1 says:

      Owned by the richest person in Montana, Dennis R. Washington.

    • Nick says:

      I know a handful of people that work for BNSF. All of them complain how they get pay stolen, denied vacation time off, and have the worst scheduling possible.
      Who in their right mind would wanna work for such a crappy company.

      • rankinfile says:

        Mexicans,Hondurans,and Guatemalans.It’s basically modern day slavery and exploitation of people that actually want to provide for their families.
        Carpentry or masonry trades on the west coast have been destroyed for American born tradesmen that have generational history.
        I guess this is the same history they want to obliterate from schools and anywhere they can.
        Don’t blame the immigrant, blame the companies and Wall Street.

        • chillbro says:

          correct on both accounts. I wonder why we get shocked that we are getting “replaced” by immigrants. Most of us were imported here to replace the native American peoples. Now this same federal government is doing the same us, albeit at slower rate because they can just work us to death over a few generations.

        • NBay says:

          Chillbro, don’t you ever wonder WHY you blame ONLY the Federal Government for our/your problems?
          There are other powerful players who PAID to make you think like that.
          It’s what Abe Lincoln called , “Preying on the prejudices of the people”, and predicted when enough power and money were in few hands the rich would do EXACTLY that, and feared the Republic would be destroyed.
          Einstein said, ” Common sense is a collection of prejudices, usually accumulated by about age 18″.
          Their is a BIG difference between STUPID and IGNORANT.
          That book, “everything Trump touches dies” is not so far off the mark, although the fact he was elected is more of a symptom than a cause. Abe saw it coming, that’s what his Gettysburg speech was about, and we let him down. Maybe he just didn’t “get” what you do, eh?….. making him more stupid and ignorant than you. Maybe people don’t want to be free, they want routine, and to spend most of their time bitching.

      • TedKaczynskisMailman says:

        Railroads are extremely abusive. That’s why BNSF has a union. It’s terrible the way they treat their employees.

        • Black says:

          As an Railroad worker you are correct that we have a union BUT our union is very weak and gets pushed around by the company. I live in a “Right to Work State” but it is mandatory to be in the union. A lot of the problem is we have several unions all fighting for themselves and are not unified.

      • Black says:

        As a Class 1 railroad employee of 15 years, the ONLY thing that keeps me coming to work everyday is the retirement and I’m sure the Fed’s will screw that up for us in the future. As in pay and healthcare we are slowly losing. There are just as good jobs out there with competitive wages and healthcare. Definitely not the same railroad as it was 15years ago

    • gametv says:

      Within the next decade we will see many jobs replaced by software automation tools and robotics. That will be the ultimate revenge of the companies. You dont want to work? OK, I will find a way to eliminate your job completely.

      Washington DC is really trying to destroy this country. Maybe they succeed.

      • Deez. Nutz says:

        This is by far the dumbest comment I’ve read. You must be in management! Let’s see automation buckle a hose, change a knuckle 130 cars back, or replace an air hose on a sliding trolley line. GTFOH!

        • KGC says:

          It’s not that stupid. The USA has one of the worst rail systems in the developed world, and is the only first world country without a high speed rail system. This is in part due to the way the tracks are “owned”, but also due to resistance on the part of the unions.

          But by far the biggest culprits in my mind are the Federal Gov’t and Teamsters. If there was a Federal mandate for high speed rail and another that would limit trucking of normal products to no more than 50 miles from a railhead and only by trucks that could turn within their lane on urban streets it would make a major impact on how people and materials are moved nationwide. The concept works, but that would mean no long haul trucking (due to be replaced by robots in the near future), robotic trains and material handling equipment (like is currently used at the Port of Rotterdam where the largest container port in Europe is run by less than a dozen humans on a daily basis), and some actual infrastructure upgrades.

          It’s embarrassing. The railroad is a part of what made this country, and nationally it’s decades behind in technologic growth in products and business practices that are actually being used in much poorer countries than this.

          It should not take 2 weeks to move a container by rail from Seattle to Norfolk, VA by rail, and yet it does. Truckers will make the same trip in 4-5 days, but it takes 1,000 trucks to move a freight train load of containers. A rail system like China is building would see that freight moved and delivered in three days, and that’s a huge savings in time, money, energy, and carbon credits.

        • c_heale says:

          The UK doesn’t have a high speed rail system either.

        • rankinfile says:

          or plumb a house- HVAC NOPE

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Deez.-you forgot to add ‘…or go shopping and spend, ANYWHERE, at the (former) scale of humans in a ‘consumer-based’ economy…’.

          and the race to the bottom inches closer to the white flag…

          may we all find a better day.

      • kam says:

        Computing, artificial intelligence, the internet, yet never any Government layoffs.
        You could cut Government payrolls 50% by head count and another 25% by pay amount and they would still not know what efficiency was.

    • General Strike says:

      Capitalism plays the long con. Until the working class understands they are the mark, expect nothing to change.

    • Gabe says:

      Raillink is one of the better ones…

  2. makruger says:

    In nearly every position I have held over my working career I have seen businesses continually slash benefits and try to do more with fewer people. It would appear the railroads at least have finally reached a point of diminishing returns. The interesting wrinkle in all of this is how it’s now going to cost them a lot more per employee to get them back than had they held onto a few more of them in the first place.

    I’ve already had a discussion with my boss about inflation and it’s corrosive effects on the purchasing power of my current salary. Probably won’t be the only conversation he has about it since he too is probably having one with his manager as well.

    • Joe Saba says:

      maybe these big companies can RECOUP employees from chinese they sent their business to
      MAGA for reason
      now you see why NAFTA and WTO have made merica newest 3rd world country
      only thing we manufacture is weapons for our endless wars

  3. MF says:

    The sad part is I think he’s truly flummoxed and confused.

    The pandemic stripped away his “caring” fig leaf and laid bare the facts about how our system works. He’s now the emperor with no clothes and everyone sees his naked avarice.

    It must be so hard for him. /s

    • sydneycollin says:


      Poor James Foote. As the President & CEO, his total annual compensation at CSX is $15,527,500. Quite a far cry from the peanuts offered to workers, just so they can be expendable again.

      • Joe Saba says:

        stream lining worked because of HIGHLY SKILLED older workers
        which decided during pandemic that RETIREMENT was good thing

        maybe that’s why 5,500,000 workers age 60-64 left workforce

        they are now traveling and enjoying life before their measly pensions make them poorer

        • joe2 says:

          Exactly. I retired early and turned down a promotion with very good salary. Did a lot of traveling, hobbies, and reading. Inflation is looking like it’s going to be a bitch but hopefully I’m hedged OK. And I’m pretty old now so what do I need anyway.

          I’m trying to schedule a trip for the fall, but borders are closed and everything is crazy. I’m glad I did not wait to retire. The world doesn’t wait for you and things are very different now.

      • Ron says:

        Boards of companies need to adjust pay to performance corporations are a joke and people awoke

      • Jack Manley says:

        The CEO of CSX is an ASS.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      Time to put 2 words back in the CEOs’ vocabulary:

      “Pay increases”.

      For the star performers who want big bonuses, add 3 more:

      “Improve working conditions”.

      When they complain that they don’t understand these basic concepts, toss at them: “Your capacity limits are limiting your profits in this economy.”

      And then there’s always the old standby: this is a “paradigm shift”

  4. Ed C says:

    Just another industry that throws their employees under the bus (train?) to goose their stock only to wake up with a headache and to find no one wanting to hire back on so they can be exploited the next time it is convenient for management to do so.

    • HR01 says:

      Ed C,


      Just like us consumers, the railroads will pay more and get less out of these less-than-committed new hires. Will take creative (one-time expense) incentives to hire them then you have to train them (time consuming and expensive). Then you have to come up with inducements needed to retain them (exorbitantly expensive and recurring). Otherwise after they’ve been trained and have a year under their belt, out the door to a competitor they may go.

      Will be the same for the likes of Boeing. They’ve axed many thousands in the last dozen years and pissed away the ‘savings’ on buybacks. Good luck hiring engineers for the new planes that they want to develop. Worse still, good luck coming up with the capital investment required to fund development when the balance sheet creaks with close to $100 B in debt (which includes the pension plan obligations).

      • MiTurn says:

        “the balance sheet creaks with close to $100 B in debt (which includes the pension plan obligations).”

        Wow, that’s sobering.

        I wonder what Airbus is like, in comparison.

        • You ain't seen nothing yet, Bob says:

          Airbus is a European company. They don’t have the expense of healthcare and pensions with fund managers collecting exorbitant fees. The governments manage the healthcare and pensions without some fund manager making billions.
          One example where governments are more efficient and where crony capitalism is failing.

        • Who Cares says:

          @You ain’t seen nothing yet, Bob:
          It is obvious that you do not know what you are talking about.

          Yes just about everyone in the EU can look forward to a basic pension from a government fund but most of the time that is supplemented by a pension based on how much you worked.

          Airbus is active in 3 nations in Europe.
          The UK and Germany sections have private pension funds. France has Agirc-Arrco, which is the government version of a pension fund.

          Same thing with healthcare. There are two main reasons that it isn’t US expensive. 1) The governments in question have a big stick and are not afraid to use said stick. 2) Majority of the healthcare is non-profit.
          Both France and the UK have a government backed healthcare system. Germany runs on a hybrid, basic healthcare insurance by the government anything on top of that by a combination of public and private insurers/funds (though you need to be self employed or make oodles of money to qualify for the private funds).

          For fun, a fully private for profit healthcare insurance industry is possible without gouging the general population. The Netherlands has it, government puts up a list of what must be insured (since insurance is compulsory) and a maximum price for this minimum package, basically everything else is negotiable.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Who-sounds like it’s time again to examine what should, and does, constitute a ‘public utility’…

          may we all find a better day.

      • Island Teal says:

        Boeing. Somebody mentioned Boeing. Still wondering where all those 737Max have been reallocated too ??

      • Sit23 says:

        Boeing are famous for borrowing money to buy shares off their executives who were issued them free as part of their employment package. As a result they had no money for aeroplane development, and the best they could come up with was Boeing 737s from the 1960s with new motors in the wrong place. Apparently the planes’ natural inclination was to dive, and they were continually pulled back up to the level flying position by computer software. Brilliant! Except that imperfect software meant it failed sometimes. Hardly at all, really. But the crashes were noticed, and in spite of huge spending, the pilots and everything else except the design and the software were unable to be blamed. What a bunch.

        • Who Cares says:

          The problem wasn’t so much the automated correction software. Airbus has been using something similar for decades.

          The problem was that they lied about the changes so that they did not have to spend money and time on certification (Airbus was I believe already one year ahead with the A320 neo). This certification would also have been a possible disincentive to buy the 737 since it would mean having to retrain pilots. And Boeing did its level best to be able to sell the plane as not needing that.
          Add to that, that the system has/had a single point of failure and that you’d have to pay to remove this single point of failure.

      • rankinfile says:

        The upcoming war will more than fix balance sheet issues, and pensions will be no more for new hires.

        China is already at war with us.We can’t so much as build a toaster without chips.Taking out each other’s satellites and internet should make the pandemic look like an ice cream social.

      • joe2 says:

        “Good luck hiring engineers”
        It will be interesting to see what comes out of the woke universities. Most engineers learn skills on the job but that supposes there are older experienced engineers to mentor them. If you don’t retain a continuum of engineering experience, the junior engineers are mentored by marketing. We’ve seen how that works out.

        • rhodium says:

          Ha, mentoring. They try to avoid that these days. It sucks up too much of the experienced engineers’ time. They now hope they can find young employees who are willing to put in the extra effort to figure it out themselves. Of course then there’s still the irritation of having to deal with some amount of trial and error learning. Sometimes that’s a disaster, sometimes it leads to innovation.

    • Paulo says:

      Yup, railroads have been cutting jobs for decades in Canada. And now with the latest wildfires they will have to rehire brakemen as a freight train most likely started the Lytton disaster fire. They will now have to slow down and also monitor. They substituted instrumentation for brakemen…and as a result there have been some absolutely dreadful accidents the last 10 years.

      Those are good union and well paid jobs. There are worse ways to earn a living. Lots of OT and a steady shift.

      • Harvey Mushman says:

        “They substituted instrumentation for brakemen…and as a result there have been some absolutely dreadful accidents the last 10 years.”

        I’m an Electrical/Firmware engineer and I work in automation. Automation is great and it has its place, but I’ll be the first one to say that it’s a mistake to rely on it too heavily.

        • Auldyin says:

          In UK 3 pick-up robots in an automated grocery warehouse collided in the night, caught fire and burned down the whole warehouse and stock.
          It had happened before some months previously on another site where the fire was brought under control.
          Robots collided! Unbelievable! Wait till they get out on the roads.

        • Sit23 says:

          Ask Uber and Tesla how their automation projects are going. Literally dead in the water.

      • Kevin says:

        Steady shift? CSX has cut most regular assigned jobs and put most transportation employees on extra boards or freight pools that require us to be on call 6 days a week/24 hrs a day. Poor quality of life.

        • Turbo says:

          I forgot to mention “quality of life”!
          The railroads DO NOT CARE about your quality of life. If anybody on here has worked for a class-1 railroad as a TE&Y employee, you know that the extra board/pool life is NOT quality of life. 12 hours at home and 36 hours in a hotel at your away from home terminal. The actual craft of railroading (TE&Y) sucks now days, and I pity and highly discourage anybody from hiring out on the RR until they get their act together and start paying livable wages in all states! It’s a lot cheaper to live in Georgia than it is to live in Washington state. I’m happy for the people that work for the RR in the South, and can afford to have things over and above their family needs, but when you make around 125,000 and can’t even afford to buy a house with no other expenditures, something is clearly wrong!
          Take a look at doctors and nurses. Same thing. Doctors don’t do shit as far as the hospital is concerned, but they make at least 10 times more than what a nurse makes, and their the ones who operate and maintain the hospital, not the doctors!
          Hopefully sometime this stupid country will realize what their doing, and start doing something to equalize the people. Then we will truly have a country to be proud of!

      • Turbo says:

        I don’t know how many years the poster’s on this article have in the industry, but these are not good paying union jobs anymore! They were in the 70’s, but not now! Railroad unions can’t even strike any more! How is that good! In the 70’s, if you told somebody you worked for the railroad, the response was “oh that’s a good job”. Today if you tell somebody you work for the railroad, they just say “oh really”. If you can’t strike, the company is not going to give you raises that keep up with inflation. Take this from somebody who had 36 years of service and resigned before I was 60 simply because I was tired of their corporate games. I am a 5th generation railroader and watched my family do very well when I was young. When I hired out, things were good until about 1993, then things started going downhill with the crew consist agreement, and the conductor/engineer only crap, and now they want to try and go engineer only. I hope people don’t live to close to a mainline. A bad accident is inevitable if they don’t change how they run trains these days.
        Long shoreman and tug boat personnel all make almost double what the average railroader makes in a year. I hope the railroads fail to a point that the fat hogs have to take a minor profit cut in order to get good railroaders back, and the only way they are going to accomplish this is by paying they’re TE&Y people what they should be paying them.

    • Old School says:

      Whole system has been getting distorted by short term thinking. Here is a few examples.

      1. Political choices all about next election.
      2. Business decisions all about next quarter.
      3. Fed policy about kicking can.
      4. Pressuring parents to have kids take vaccine before FDA approval.

      • Harrold says:

        #4 really?

      • Andy the Car says:

        #4? I don’t think this is the forum for vax/anti-vax discussions?

        • gerry says:

          Why not?

        • Sit23 says:

          The same people and way of thinking seems to be running corporate America and the Vaccination programs. What is happening in either area is analogous to the other. Pretending to do things for one public reason, while actually having a different reason for doing these things seems to be absolutely normal in all corporations these days. And when found out, these people are totally brazen and shameless about it. This applies to vaxxing and running companies!

      • Les says:

        Correct. Pitiful, no?

    • carlos says:

      after destroying their work culture and work ethics, now they want labor supply ?
      amazing times, and now the shutdowns and supply chains collapse.

  5. Bobber says:

    The merger and consolidation problem impacts nearly all industries, not just the railroads.

    Biden and Congress should make the corporate tax rate much more progressive. Small businesses should pay very little tax to encourage economic growth. Large mega-corporations should pay a high tax rate to discourage mergers, avoid too-big-to-fail issues, limit political power, and encourage competition.

    The economy would be booming now if more companies were competing and investing to gain market share. The monopolies and oligopolies face very little competition today, and it shows in their profit streams.

    • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

      Change is the only constant. Breath. Pause. Think. Space-X is flying manned and cargo missions for government / private enterprise. Electric vehicles are a reality that you see every single day while on the road.

      There are mega-corporations corrupting the landscape. But there are awesome companies being setup all the time to try to break the old molds. My cousin was working at a startup that creates gyros for mini satellites. This is garage engineering that could change the world.

      • Bobber says:

        My point is that corporate tax rates should be progressive to encourage competition and stifle oligopolies.

        Your buddy working out of his garage shouldn’t have to pay any tax, so he can apply his resources to his innovations. The large companies that stifle innovation via mergers and consolidation should be paying the bulk of the taxes, in order discourage excess consolidation.

        • Cem says:

          The point that people opposing this thought can never properly explain is why do these large corporations enjoy the roads, the clean water, the power grid, the military protection, the graduates of top universities etc etc and not have to pay a dime for those privileges while all of us and the small companies shoulder the tax costs? It’s bullshit.

      • chillbro says:

        way to miss the point, champ.

    • Finster says:

      I’ve been saying much the same thing. We have a progressive tax for individuals; why not for corporations? There’s been explosion of corporate power and concentration of wealth in just a handful of teracorporations, while the 99% of businesses struggle.

      Some huge corporations don’t even pay dividends, bottling up capital within, getting bigger and gobbling up otherwise independent businesses. Maybe we wouldn’t need to waste so much time haggling over the finer points of antitrust law if we just had a progressive corporate tax.

      • topcat says:

        you don’t have these things because you don’t have a political party that is interested in the people. I would suggest that you and about 20 million other citizens start a social democratic party, get elected and enact some new laws.
        In the existing two party dictatorship, things can only get…. worse

      • lenert says:

        Get rid of the income tax and just tax their stock gains. But don’t forget to look at all the ways pre-tax income has been pre-distributed to them over the last 40 years.

      • NotDeadYet says:

        The world has changed, Finster… Corporate Power has oozed itself into everything. Look at the sports fields: Veterans Stadium was replaced by Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park. Its like that all over the country. The Garden State Arts Center is now the PNC Bank Center… There are only a few NFL Stadiums not named after corporations. Few “once” public arenas exist which are not named after a corporation. And sportscasters and promoters are constantly barraging us with those corporate names until they are engrained in our brains…
        My point is this… Big Corps hold the power and it gets greater everyday. And if it gets to be too much to handle, we Americans are invited to escape to “Love Island” or “Bachelor in Paradise” or “Love After Lock Up”… the choices seem endless and equally mind numbing.

        • Sierra7 says:

          NotDeadYet: (an others)
          America is all about business.
          America is a business.
          “Business” is not a democracy.
          “Business” is a dictatorship.
          End of story.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      A Biden plan to increase funding to the IRS to pursue sophisticated major tax evasion by high net worth individuals and their cos has been blocked by Senate GOP. The IRS has had its funding cut in the past 4 years.

      • Bobber says:

        I’ve noticed the tax evaders typically belong to a corrupt wing of one political party. They say they want lower taxes, but deep down they feel punished for having to pay any taxes at all. They have no respect for democracy.

        • Bobber says:

          To clarify, it is legitimate to push for lower taxes, but not if you are too afraid to cite specific spending cuts. As we are seeing, that weakness only results in money printing and inflation.

          Those folks who had a plan to “starve the beast” are finding out it doesn’t work. The beast escapes his cage and eats everybody’s food.

      • Ted says:

        Lois lerner effect.

        • Bobber says:

          Why would Lois Lerner enter the discussion?

          Even if there was an isolated mishap at the IRS 10 years ago involving targeting of conservative 501(c) organizations, is that a reason to say the country doesn’t require tax enforcement? We need to defund the entire organization because of one bad apple? Based on that logic, why aren’t Republicans siding with the “defund the police” movement.

          That type of argument wouldn’t pass muster at a preschool, so it shouldn’t pass muster anywhere else.

          People who cite Lois Lerner are shady, or they lack critical thinking skills.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Bobber-seems that the results of deciding to “…throw the baby out with the bathwater…” historically results in subsequent comments of “…has anyone seen the baby?…”..

          may we all find a better day.

      • You know the plan also aimed at hiring IRS employees for monitoring apps like Venmo and Cashapp. Don’t think that really includes high net worth individuals. More like small businesses and normal people trying to not get shafted by taxes.

    • Jeff says:

      Wait, are you saying that politicians that claim to be the “progressive” party should institute a tax on companies that is “progressive”? Impossible!

  6. John says:

    Right now in my town the hotels are desperately trying to hire housekeepers for $23/hr.

    • RightNYer says:

      Turns out people don’t want to work when necessities of life, like housing and ability to save, is intentionally put out of reach.

      • Depth Charge says:

        Nah, it’s the freebies. Once the extra UE bennies are gone, they’ll be chomping at the bit for work. People need money to survive. Nobody says “yeah, I think I’ll just go broke.” You can’t eat or survive that way.

        • Zero says:

          You didn’t really think that through all the way, huh?

        • Alex says:

          Nah. Half the states already cut off benefits, and have seen no improvement in the unemployment rate. People started their own businesses during the pandemic so they would not have to work as slaves to corporations anymore. If anything, they sell on Amazon to get by. And it is working. They don’t need your minimum wage and crap “benefits” anymore. They can survive and keep their freedom now

        • Andy the Car says:

          I sell online (several platforms) rather than take crap wages. It’s not ideal, and once I factor in self-employment taxes I’m probably not making much more than I would out in the traditional workplace. However, as someone who spends much of the day as a caregiver for an elderly family member, an employer who would jerk me around for a non-living wage is one less stressor to add to my day.

        • Depth Charge says:

          “You didn’t really think that through all the way, huh?”

          Let me guess – you’re one of those chowderheads that thinks people can just live life with no money?

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          @Alex: You have some data for your assertion about UE rates vs. benefits?

        • Alex says:

          @wisdomseeker: the unchanged, or increasing, unemployment rate has been cited by several reports. Here is one:

          While I have not performed any hard stats on the manner, I can see what is happening around me. People are coming up with any way to get by rather than going back to jobs they hate. This includes setting up unregulated tents on the boardwalk in San Diego to sell whatever to tourists. This is working for many people. I’m not sure this will last, but for now it works.

          Also note that these “business models” do not require a business license in California. This includes selling on Amazon. These people are solopreneurs. They don’t need employees. They do everything themselves and make just enough for their bills.

    • Old School says:

      Business can’t compete with government printing machine about paying wages. I have been binge watching everything economic I can as this is tough time to invest.

      Seems like there is most distortion ever. Real economic activity like factory production or home building struggling. BS business like phone apps or crypto ecosystem in a manic state.

    • Caveman says:

      Do you mind saying the area?

      $23 per hour is descent money in West Virginia or Detroit….coastal Cali, Seattle not so much.

      I recently turned down a job in San Luis Obispo after seeing the $975k starter homes.

      • Harrold says:

        Buy now or forever be priced out!

      • Depth Charge says:

        “I recently turned down a job in San Luis Obispo after seeing the $975k starter homes.”

        We’re in the biggest housing bubble in history. But yeah, $975k starter homes should indicate a median household income of at least $350k. And that’s “median.” Starter homes are for people who don’t really make the median. Is median household income over $300k in SLO?

  7. Willy2 says:

    – I see another reasons why CSX was forced to reduce the headcount: Remember those stock buyback paid for by borrowing money ?

    – As I have said many times before: this is how capitalism devours itself.

    – There is a more structural trend that A LOT OF people have overlooked. The Baby Boomers are now retiring in droves. And who are going to replace those Baby Boomers ?

    • J7915 says:

      Was the interest on the buyback loans considered a business expense? How much does the stock price influence the consumer’s choice? That applies to all buyers I suppose.

    • LGC says:

      This is really key. I live in a mostly RR town. All the guys (and it is all men BTW, there’s damn few “totally equal in all things” women doing the hard work of being a RR guy). all the RR guys i know are all boomers, all have 25 to 35 years in the RR and all are getting ready to walk away. There’s no one behind them because all the lessor seniority got laid off long ago or got no shifts for months on end when it got slow and walked away

      • Russell says:

        That’s where the unions really kill a workforce. You have no choice but to maintain seniority and can’t get rid of deadwood. Layoffs take out the younger workers indiscriminately leaving no incentive to perform well at your job. Anyone with real ability or drive will find places to work that place a premium on performance.

        Even without a union, I am forced to give all hourly personnel the same wage increase every year. The only difference is I am able to be selective when offering promotions or giving special assignments. That can provide some level of motivation.

      • Petunia says:

        I listened to a Canadian RR engineer who used to call into a live stream. He said the trains can really drive themselves. He is basically just there for show.

        A few years ago, he said they were laying off about 75 a week, and hiring new engineers at the same time. His job was to train the newbies mostly.

        • Trailer Trash says:

          Trains may drive themselves but they still can’t fix a broken coupler or brake hose. Computers aren’t much good in a derailment or grade crossing crash either.

          Railroads have a very long history of killing their workers, a “tradition” which persists today. If they quit treating essential workers as disposable they would have plenty of applicants.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          Automation works great as long as it is working great.

          It’s when something off-normal happens that automation blows up in your face.

          “To err is human, but to really screw up, use a computer.”

        • joe2 says:

          A long time ago I did some work on train safety for the FRA and road instrumented freight trains all over. The physics is very unforgiving. One train almost derailed from truck hunting on empty car carriers. On another track the train handling rules had to be changed on a tricky curve on a hill to reduce lateral forces.

          I think I would want an experienced engineer on any train I rode.

    • Russell says:

      The whole Baby Boomer theory is way over-used and way over-stated. It has had very little real impact. It’s a little like Y2K. Once they are out of the work force what are we going use as the next rationale de jour?

      The birth rate increase was barely a blip on the radar and they are retiring across a 30-year time range. Our current lower birth rate is here to stay and is a product of a modernized society. The demand for labor is reduced by mechanization and immigration.

  8. Nathan Dumbrowski says:

    Caboose Chaos
    Workers were disposable when it served the Board and Shareholders. With the buildup demand and delays in shipments it seems this will play out in slow motion. Call it inflation however I see it as corporate greed to the maximus. What else could go wrong outside of fuel prices surging?

    *gulp* Good thing the US government discovered they can produce $T with the proverbial wave of the wand. Gleefully announcing that these are historically low interest rates. As if that makes it easier to have debt out the wazoo

  9. George W says:

    Still no raise for me…

    My Amazon DSP( Delivery Service Partner ) always has extra shifts available etc. Supposedly Amazon raised warehouse worker pay but so far that hasn’t carried over to the sub contracted driver side.

    Amazon advertises all the time for open position but they don’t advertise that most of the shifts start at 2:30 in the AM.

  10. Gerry says:

    There is a phrase called “institutional memory” that refers to organizations hiring and training employees before the current generation of employees leaves or retires. If there is too much employee turnover, with longterm employees leaving, that can leave the organization or business with newer employees who only have time-limited experience. Another problem is exemplified by an article I read about an attorney who would only hire only people as secretaries because he said that the school systems for the past twenty years have mostly been turning out students with crap writing and reading ability. Expecting any new hires to do as good a job as those former CSX employees is questionable. Those former CSX employees may not be able to handle the culture shock of returning to work after a year’s absence. The attitude expressed in the Johnny Paycheck song “Take This Job And Shove It” can apply. It seems like only yesterday that news reporters were writing stories about truck drivers being replaced by AI robot drivers. Now there is a truck driver shortage (and train driver shortage as well), but no shortage of news reporters, over half of whom have been laid off in the past 15 years with no noticeable impact. Maybe the CSX CEO should spend a week working on a train to see why he has a problem hiring new workers.

    • LouisDeLaSmart says:

      Hmmm…If you have any links on this phrase “institutional memory” it would be of use. Sounds like an interesting read.
      The shortage in labor is not one of labor but of quality offers. With low wages and high living cost, one seeks stability, a product oriented enviornment and a not overly menagerized work structure.
      Working costs more then not working. If you add up the cost of working , assuming you have a familly, in most of these cases you lose more money then you gain (daycare, school, gas, car mileage, food etc.). Hence people are just using common sense economics on the profitability of a buisness venture.
      This shortage is then abused on two levels in the media
      1) The general audience is made to believe the economy is suffering due to “lazy” people, where as it is just bad management that brought us here.
      2) Since it is not their fault, they see no reason to change, hence no admitance of responsability, hence no change.
      A man I detest but respect is Cherchil. They wanted to cut money previously allocated for arts, theaters and museums, and he simply asked: “Then why are we fighting this war?” My point is that this labor shortage is nothng else then a question> “What is the point in building a world we cannot afford to live in?”

    • Nick Kelly says:

      This robot truck driver thing is funny. Do they exist? Sort of. Big mining companies use auto bulk ore trucks. They always do the same route which can have beacons on it to shut them off if something goes wrong. You can do anything you like on your own property.

      Watch a typical delivery to a shopping center as the driver deals with traffic as he pulls of the road then backs up to the dock all the time surrounded by cars who rarely give him a break as they keep moving in anticipation of an opening. Good way to give a computer a nervous breakdown, aka ‘lock up’

      The best candidates for automation are tasks that identical each cycle. The number one use of robots in the US: packaging bulk into small, exact, retail quantities.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      “Maybe the CSX CEO should spend a week working on a train to see why he has a problem hiring new workers.”

      That is a great idea!
      I think that the executives of all companies should have a better understanding of the products or services they provide and what it takes to really produce them.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Ghost of S.McQueen-that executive disconnect from a company’s core production mission has been a longrunning and major aspect of our current industrial, and now services, decline. In the breach of honest and ongoing economic SWOT analyses, business and government (the effects of which we see all-too-often excellently covered here by Wolf), the race to the bottom continues…

        may we all find a better day.

    • Harrold says:

      “attorney who would only hire only people as secretaries”

      What was his other choice?

  11. SnotFroth says:

    The CEO of Union Pacific was on CNBC today saying positive things. He said they don’t have a problem hiring, they have some people still on furlough, and they get back about 70% of those they ask.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It was a huge topic during the conference call today, and they got a lot of questions on it, and they danced around it artfully, saying it’s not a huge problem YET, though there are some spots where they’re having difficulties.

      Clearly, they learned a lesson on how to answer these questions, after the drubbing that CSX took yesterday on it.

      • SpencerG says:

        CEOs are in some ways like professional athletes. Their time as CEO is about the same as an NFL player… five to seven years. And some are superstars while others never quite get the hang of playing the game at the professional level.

        CSX CEO vs. UP CEO… it would be interesting to know their backgrounds. How high in the draft were they taken if you will.

        • Rg says:

          I accepted your challenge and looked at the background of both CEOs.

          The CEO of CSX started at the bottom repairing locomotives and worked his way up through multiple positions in various railroad industry companies. The CEO of Union Pacific graduated from a top business school and worked at multiple apparently non-railroad companies including General Electric.

          So I’d say that the difference is probably just the difference between one of them being honest and the other being a politician. Which would you want running your company?

        • wkevinw says:

          Many of the “industrial” companies have been taken over by the “biz school” execs: financial/marketing, etc.

          This is how you get all the layoffs, stock buybacks, short termism. The thing is that it works if you have a weak labor market/globalization. A lot of these companies just off-shore or hope for low wage imported labor inside the US to come to the rescue. It’s harder to do in some industries, like RRs, but you can believe they will try. (creativity/innovative thinking is not a strong point of these execs)

          The “just in time” problem- where people who have never worked a job focused on delivering something tangible- has been in question since the Kobe earthquake (1995). There were lots of tears about lost production because of no inventories.

          Here we are again.

        • SpencerG says:

          RG… it depends. Sometimes an outside the industry CEO can bring more to the table than one who has been there for decades. Particularly when a company needs a turnaround. I have seen that happen over and over again.

    • Ty orton says:

      He’s absolutely lying. We have borrow outs right now in my area because we went from 650 to 350. On top of that no one is going to want to work for a company that just got a horrible name for itself in the area. You really think a smaller city isn’t goo to know what you did to all your workers and you are going to be able to recruit there now?

    • Russell says:

      We primarily deal with UP, some KCS. No real issues seen yet. Our primary concerns are with a shortage of truck drivers; can’t get raw materials in and can’t get product out. You schedule trucks based on when you hope to be able to ship and move dates based on reality hoping the carrier doesn’t move on to other customers. Paying demurrage is the least of your concerns.

  12. OutWest says:

    I worked for pretty low wages for a long time but that was back when you could live off it. Rent, education, food….restaurant work would, for example, cover costs. A good number of my friends did that.

    Now, I am sympathetic to those who struggle with this paradigm. Hate to say it but education is the only way out…don’t listen to the morons…

    • twinkytwonk says:

      I wouldn’t say that education is the way out but i would say that having a skill where you can work for yourself is. Everyone who attends university will get a degree and the phd program is used as a way to get cheap labour in said universities . If you have chosen a subject that is purely academic like history for example, you have wasted your time and will find yourself working minimum wage.

      I did a genetics degree and a phd in plant molecular biology. Once qualified i worked as a senior research officer at said UK university and the wage was less than i was getting as cnc machine operator 10 years ago. The wage was set at £24k a year take home and you would be working on average for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week with the occasional sunday too. There was no limit to the hours you would be expected to work and no overtime either.

      • Paulo says:

        My son makes $200K + per year as an electrician, doing highly skilled and specialised maintenance work on oil field equipment in Alberta. My buddy’s grandson is a HD Tech, used to be called heavy duty mechanic. He also makes this kind of wage at age 25.

        When my son was 18 and casting about I urged him to go into electrical work ….that was 15 years ago. “Stay away from university”, I said. “Get a unionised trade”. He earned while he learned as an apprentice. Obviously, no student loans. Sure, there were the usual shit jobs to get established, but decent work is out there if you have a plan and make the effort.

        Both of these guys (examples) work away for two weeks, and live on Vancouver Island for their scheduled two weeks off. Their companies pay an extra $1000 per month towards work site housing costs, or they will put them up in company accommodations, their choice. They also get an extra $7 per hour for their retirement plan, which the company matches. This is on a base rate of almost $70 per hour. The first 8 hours is at straight time, then time + 1/2 for three, then double time for the last hour of a 12 hour shift. All stat holidays doubles that pay as the operations run 24/7. Since they get two weeks off every month, they don’t worry about holidays too much, but they can swap shifts as need be for extra time off.

        It’s not for everyone, but they are respected at work and their pay scale matches it. Hell, they even get freshly laundered coveralls every shift and a yearly work clothing and boot allowance.

        Now why on earth would this Dad have recommended university? The only university work I would have urged him to consider was maintenance support staff….as an electrician or carpenter. :-)

        • MiTurn says:

          You described my oldest son. University drop-out, but now a seasoned electrician who apprenticed on Texas natural gas plant before returning home and starting his own business.

          The other two sons, both attended university — one graduated with a master’s degree, the other dropped out to join the military — both are now working in the tech industry using zero of the “skills” learned at school or the military, but from things they self-learned as teens teaching themselves about computer programming.

          Anyhow, education is more than college. And there appears to be too many folks that have graduated with degree in hand, but not with the right skill sets. I’d call this being miseducated.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          “My son makes $200K + per year as an…”

          I assume, Canadian dollars, given that the work is in Alberta. Which would be about USian $159,000. For us here south of the border, that’s an important distinction :-]

        • Phil says:

          My neighbor behind me was a linesman, traveling to work on high voltage stuff, and he’s told me that his biggest regret in life was working too much and missing out on his kids growing up. His wife left him years ago because of his constant absences from home.
          My wife and I both went to university and make plenty of money, working a lot less hard than what you describe here. We don’t have to travel for work. I set my own schedule and work part time by choice, she only has to work 180 days a year, 7-3pm. We were able to keep our kids home through the pandemic with little interruption of our careers. We are always around weekends and dinner time. We are never put in physical danger of any kind in our work, and there is no wear and tear on our bodies. There are trade offs with most career paths, and there’s a reason why college degrees continue to be popular.
          I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a technical career to my kids if I thought they were right for it. Nor would I hesitate to encourage them towards a college degree if I thought it suited them best.

        • David Hall says:

          Indeed dot com stated, “The average salary for a master electrician is $29.73 per hour in Florida and $10,000 overtime per year.” That is roughly $70k/yr. They can start as apprentices right out of high school. They skip 5 years of college and X amount of college debt to become a $40k/year Florida teachers after some years of experience. Teachers get their summers off.

          Vermont pays its teachers more. My brother’s school got 30 applications for one teacher job opening.

      • Harrold says:

        Many jobs require a college degree. Years ago the requirement was a high school diploma. Doesn’t matter what the college degree is in, but its now a requirement. History seems cheap and easy.

        Receptionist, administrative assistant, mail room, etc all require a degree now.

        • Rg says:

          I recently saw a job announcement for a baggage handler at a small airport. The hiring manager had the gall to indicate that a BS in Aviation Management was a preferable qualification … for a bagger handler. Unbelievable.

      • Cobalt Programmer says:

        In US, most of the PhD students in hard sciences (STEM) are immigrants from third world countries. They can easily manage low wages and longer hours to works as teaching, research and even administrative assistants. Universities and research institutes depend upon them. Most of the basic research is government-public funded which is reducing steadily, the salary and benefits cannot increase with inflation. They are the burger flippers and low-wage workers who cannot be replaced with automation.

      • wkevinw says:

        twinkytwonk- Yes, these degrees in biology evidently still don’t make much. Many STEM degrees are like that, contrary to what they feed you in the PR. I am lucky to have a STEM degree in physical science, so did OK. I did not advise my children to pursue STEM. It can be a good career, but is not for everybody. It’s also a challenging academic career, which probably most people can’t accomplish.

        The easiest way to get some kind of paying job after college is some kind of business degree. It’s not that hard to get the degree, and you will be very likely to get some kind of job (in any location). How much pay you get will depend on which degree and how hard you work.

  13. MCH says:

    I foresee a great need for…. HR professionals soon. Calling Catbert….

    That or Taiwanese sweat shop managers. ?

  14. Artem says:

    Simple: self-driving trains.

    You are welcome.

    • MCH says:

      heh heh, it’s more realistic than self driving cars.

      But I’m sure someone is already looking into that.

    • roddy6667 says:

      Also, conductors? Really? Whole Foods has stores without cashiers. A phone app can replace a conductor with a paper punch.

      • Paulo says:

        Until there is a fire, or accident. They have already automated as much as they can, (long before Tesla), but those train damn things derail every so often.

        How many of you want a 3 mile long train towing oil tankers and propane cars…running through your town at night with no one on board at the controls? Crossing highways and moving through neighbourhoods. These things go through busy cities as well as open spaces.

        Rails expand and contract with heat, cars budge through crossings, shit happens.

        I didn’t think so.

        • Artem says:

          Simple: Self-driving ambulances

          You are welcome.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          And a robot paramedic? This is not a venue for the simple minded.

        • Harrold says:

          Isn’t that the way it is today? No one at the controls at night?

          Isn’t that how the Lac-Megantic rail disaster happened? Unattended train rolled into town and exploded killing 47 people?

        • Anthony A. says:

          “Simple: Self-driving ambulances”

          Don’t forget the automated robotic body baggers.

    • gnokgnoh says:

      The entire Dubai metro commuter train system is fully automated. No people anywhere. Slow downs during peak hour rushes are simply handled by computer algorithms that message throughout the system. They’re like horizontal elevators (people movers).

    • namekarB says:

      Oh you mean like Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Perfectly doable if you eliminate the 1/2 million at grade road crossings. But then there is the problem of what to do when a defective railroad car is detected (trackside detectors every 10 miles) or if there is need to switch an industry or pick up and/or set out cars in route.

      Ain’t gonna happen in our lifetime

  15. Engin-ear says:

    The railroads just have to stay afloat 10 years more.

    Then will come the end of ICE cars and trucks, the railroads will get a better market share in transportation and will be able to charge more and pay better wages.

    • Ensign_Nemo says:

      Unless the “Mr. Fusion” device seen in the “Back to the Future” films is actually invented, I don’t think that we shall see anything replace ICE for railroad locomotives anytime soon. I doubt that even Elon Musk will be able to invent batteries that can provide a constant 4000+ horsepower at the wheels for several days without a recharge and be small and light enough to fit inside a locomotive. Even if he could, the current drain during recharging them would short out the grid in California.

      We could in theory “kick it old-school” and go back to burning wood or coal to power steam engine locomotives, but the resulting air pollution would give the EPA a heart attack. It also would be a bit of a problem to send red hot embers into the bone-dry grasslands and forests of the American West during one of the worst droughts in decades. The smoke from the current fires is already spreading to the East Coast. I don’t think that it would be wise to provide more sources of ignition to such a gigantic tinderbox.

      • Engin-ear says:

        Who said that the EV will replace the ICE at 1:1 ratio?

      • Seneca’s Cliff says:

        Of course we could have been like Japan, Germany or France and electrified much of our railroad mileage for both passengers and freight. No batteries or high tech gizmos’s needed, just wires and a copper bar. But over the last 75 years we chose to put our money in to now obsolete shopping malls, remote suburban cracker box houses and giant sports arenas. Future historians will not be kind to us.

      • Dan Romig says:

        Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t diesel locomotive engines actually power electric generators that then feed electric motors to drive the propulsion wheels?

        And to Seneca’s Cliff, as I finished my bike ride today, I had a nice tail wind and was doing about 30 mph. Beside me was a Siemens light-rail train (made in California) pulling away from a stop. The thing was at 45 mph in seconds, and the only thing that it’s driver had to worry about was limiting the G-force as it pulled away.

        • Ensign_Nemo says:

          Yes, the locomotives are diesel electric, somewhat similar to a hybrid automobile, but you still need the ICE to spin the generators.

          You can’t accelerate a 100-car train to 45 mph in seconds, even if you had four or five locomotives pulling it, especially if there is any significant gradient, even if it’s just a degree or two away from absolutely flat. The amount of torque required to even try to do that would rip the rails out of the ground. A hundred passengers weigh much less than a hundred fully loaded railway carriages, even if the average American is overweight.

          If we had one hundred thousand miles of completely weather proof high-voltage electric lines suspended above the railways, then we could get rid of the ICE and drive the entire system from the electric grid. That supergrid doesn’t exist, and even if it did the overburdened electric power systems in places such as California and Texas couldn’t handle the extra load. Diesel locomotives aren’t going to be replaced anytime soon.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      All we have to do is find a way for the train to go where the tracks don’t. Back before large, long- haul semis almost wiped out rail, except for bulk commodities like coal, oil, grain etc. it was common for businesses to have to supply their own short- haul trucking from the rail depot. Turns out, they’d rather have it brought to their dock or door.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        For those types of loads – dock-to-dock – intermodal works great, if done right, and it’s a huge very profitable business for the railroads. For railroads, the intermodal business includes carrying truck trailers and containers.

        • upstater says:

          My understanding is intermodal has the thinnest margins of any type of railroad traffic. Chemicals and plastics have the highest margins, followed by bulk commondites moved as unit trains.

          Intermodal is profitable only on very long runs (e.g., west coast ports to major cities), with a few minor exceptions.

          “precision scheduled railroading” has resulted in abandonment of entire market segments, including intermodal service for smaller city pairs..

  16. SpencerG says:

    LOL… I doubt that the extra $300 a week in Unemployment benefits is the reason that unionized railroad workers are delaying their return. Perhaps the CEO of CSX should ask what the real reasons are… BEFORE he shows his ass to the nation.

  17. Gris says:

    Good for buffet for not gutting his railroad. He invests for the good of the people.

    • Trailer Trash says:

      Many hundreds of former employees of Dexter Shoe would disagree. After Buffet made “the worst deal of my life” he shut down all the Dexter Shoe factories and shipped the equipment to China. Twenty years later the town has not recovered.

      Buffet must have good PR people to keep his image polished; he is just as cutthroat as anyone else in the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate).

      (I worked there as a contractor to get ready for Y2K.)

    • fajensen says:

      True – if “people” means Warren Buffett!

  18. Boomer says:

    Another American story. Finance people running once great companies like GE and Boeing into the ground. What they can’t offshore they destroy. all helped along by CNBC cheerleaders.

    Furloughed Railroaders covered by Railroad Retirement act. When recalled you typically have a few days to report back. Period. However the jobs are so bad most people don’t come back. Railway Labor Act is firmly biased in the carriers favor, strikes can’t happen. Contracts are of the ‘cram down” variety. You often hear about job applicants that can’t pass drug screens, the few that show up for training quit before they even mark up when they find out what they are in for. These were coveted jobs in the 70’s when Railroads were run by career railroaders like the Claytor’s and Southern Pacific’s DJ Russell.

    IMHO railroads are running up against the limits of automation. The goal is to have one dead tired person on that 14,000 ton 100 car train with overlaid tech like PTC, Trip Optimizer, inward facing camera’s etc. Unfortunately the real world doesn’t always cooperate with the algorithm. None of that stuff is a substitute for skilled, alert, well trained, experienced employees. The future is scary in this world of hackers and cyber attacks. they won’t have those skilled people to get things done.

    • John says:

      As a former conductor, engineer, and manager I can’t agree more.

    • aqius says:

      thank god casey ryback will be cooking in the train galley: just in case.

      NO ONE beats him in the kitchen!

    • Rudolf says:

      There is an old story about a famous Middle Eastern Mullah, Nasir Edin. On his farm he had a mule but he was unhappy with the Mule because it ate so much. So each day he fed the mule a little bit less. One day he came out to the barn and found that the mule had died. Darn, he said, if I had just been able to keep him going a little while longer, I would’ve had him working with no food at all.
      Sound familiar?

      • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

        ^^ Cute story. Seems very apropos in this or every publicly traded stock story

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      Boomer-with your permission, will be using “Unfortunately the real world doesn’t always cooperate with the algorithm”. A lot. (Much more to the point than the time-worn phrase: “…bad luck…”.

      may we all find a better day.

    • Juanfo says:

      Company that pretends to pay me to pretend to work while I sit around browsing marketplace ads and reading Wolfstreet all day. Owner calls me into his office and asks me why the numbers don’t match the database. I tell him it is impossible to code for every possible variable in an infinite universe then I quickly shuffle away leaving him blinded in his brain fog. Then the programmer gets called in and asked the same question and gives the same answer. Automation and offshoring are believed to be a magical solution to all problems where business will just run itself while managers play golf or whatever they dream about doing with more spare time and money.

  19. Scott says:

    I would certainly concede companies like CSX have done many things wrong over the last several years to contribute to their fate but, regardless of that, i would say that having so many people so disinterested in working doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of the nation’s economy.

    One day sometime sooner than we would like, the fiat petro-dollar will be dethroned and, with that, the nations ability to import so many cheap goods. That will be the time when it will become painfully clear that there is no such thing as a free lunch. At that point it will be sunk or swim and, whether good or bad, things will change.

  20. YuShan says:

    So many people have now discovered how good life can be without their shitty jobs. Their mindset has changed forever.

    Also, with “experts” in MSM making people believe that the government can run a $3T deficit, with the Fed monetising all of it without consequences, how are you now going to convince people to go back to their old shitty lives?

    People have now been “educated” that M M T free money does actually exist and while billionaires spending millions of their recently acquired wealth for 7 minute joyrides into space, they are now going to demand more than a trickle down.

    I wonder at what point people will take to the streets when they are being told they cannot get it. Isn’t it a perfectly reasonable demand? All these Nobel prize winning economists and talking heads said that government debt doesn’t matter. Low interest rates, Fed can backstop everything, etc…. So why can they not get it?

    • Old School says:

      Funny money has gotten us in trouble. Can you imagine if reality said $30T is the maximum debt allowed and so from that point on it’s really going to be balanced budget. What would reality look like?

      Instead it’s going to be more deception and funny money and negative real rates and million dollar houses.

    • Engin-ear says:

      – “Their mindset has changed forever.”

      Replace the word ‘plan’ by ‘mindset’ below :)

      -> “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Mike Tyson

    • endeavor says:

      I hear in San Francisco you don’t need money to go shopping? The need for work is fading away.

      • MiTurn says:

        Yeah, but only at $95 at time.

        • El Katz says:

          No, it’s $950 – not $95. You can have a nice spree on that amount of goods.

          Read an article yesterday that claimed that a good quantity of shoplifted goods are showing up at flea markets in the Bay Area.

          And they say entrepreneurship is dead……

        • Anthony A. says:

          Is that $950 per store visit, or per day?

      • YuShan says:

        Yes, I have seen a couple of videos of people walking leisurely into a shop, grabbing a whole bunch of clothes and walk out. Nobody is doing anything.

        • Anthony A. says:

          The store management can fire the cashiers with this new business model.

  21. Brant Lee says:

    By now, everyone knows working for a corporation will probably be temporary when the focus of business in the U.S. is growing the stock price. It’s not like a good life career move when every quarter, companies look for ways to cut costs, wages, and benefits, outsource, buy back stock instead of R&D, etc and so on. Not to say how CEOs and boards are stripping their own companies as deep as they can for their personal self.

    Over 70% of Americans are overweight and growing (no pun) and now you won’t be able to pry their butts off the couch with a crowbar. Watching our politicians in action, everyone has caught on that endless free money is available from the government starting with the President talking policy in trillions for all.

    The new American workers union is here. We’re sitting this one out. Feed me.

    • Old School says:

      Endless free money is going to equal endless inflation. Anyone see $10 bread yet?

      • Brant Lee says:

        Inflation is only transitory to those few who can borrow from the FED at 0%, not everyone below. This is all still working in favor of the ultra-rich who can buy up anything people need, then charge inflated prices caused by the government. Sounds like a plan.

      • Yort says:

        Branson reached 86.1 kilometers of altitude and Bezos hit 107 kilometers…..yet inflation is going to the moon…LOL

        Got a quote to replace a $75 pressure regulation valve on a house last week, they wanted $600. Spent 1 hour replacing it…Made $525/hour. Got a quote to paint a 7 ft by 40 food wall of of an open patio for $1000. Spent 4 hours (power washed, caulked, and roller painted using $50 paint)…made $237/hour. Got a quote to remove a 35 foot tall landscape cedar for $400. I hooked up a 25,000 lb strap and pulled it with a large 4×4, and dumped it in the woods in 15 minutes. Made $1,600 per hour. I’ve never made so much per hour and I’ve owned multiple business…so much money to save, I’m is kind of amazing as long as you know how to do things…

        Inflation is not too bad for services as long as you don’t hire anyone…HA Perks of growing up in extreme poverty is knowing how to do most physical tasks as folks who grow up poor never had the money and had to fix everything themselves. If everyone did this, there would be no service inflation…

        • Anthony A. says:

          Good job Yort!

          At 77+ I still maintain my auto fleet, and that includes my daughter’s Mustang and granddaughter’s Ford Focus. I also fix anything around the house that breaks, including appliances (TV’s are throwaway though).

          I grew up in a poor family and my father taught me how to be self sufficient. Best education I ever got, and after the War, I went to college on the G.I. Bill and got me engineering degree. That degree got me a good job and then I started my own business after that.

          I still cut my grass and do all the cooking around here as wife is handicapped.

          It makes me sick to read about a company like CSX that pays the CEO $15 mill a year and he gets the company in a bind like this. Didn’t he see that once we were coming out of the CCP Covid mess that business would pick up light gangbusters? He should have been paying attention to what was going on in front of him all year.

        • Bobber says:

          Yes, doing things on your own makes great sense from a financial perspective. Plus, it may save time and be more convenient, as well as provide greater control over outcomes.

        • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

          You forgot to mention that you have a lot of tools and a large 4×4. So you invested in some pretty expensive equipment, have the ability to store and access the gear, have your own insurance in the event you “screw-up” and break something or somebody and the know how to use the gear.

          Not knockings you just calling out the obvious. Most people don’t make it a practice to have a work shed full of gear

        • Ensign_Nemo says:

          One thing that most people can do is learn how to build and fix their own computers. There are YouTube videos for most types of computers that show you how to take things apart and put them back together. I’m typing this on a ten year old laptop that needed a $10 fan and $10 of new thermal paste to be repaired and functional again. The temperatures went from 99 Celsius just before the old fan died to a max of 74 C under stress, and an average of 50-ish C. The new fan rarely spins up now. New thermal paste does wonders to old laptops.

          If you want a new desktop computer, you can find enough help from online sources such as Reddit and YouTube and build your own. Most prebuilts these days have cut corners, with cheap or mismatched component parts. A custom-built computer will outperform and outlast them. It’s also much easier to fix something if you built it yourself and know exactly how to reverse the process and disassemble it.

          Not everyone can fix their own cars – you would need a garage in midwinter, and buying a house to get a garage to save money by fixing your own car is … not economical. It is quite practical to build and fix your own computers.

  22. w.c.l. says:

    Was on the net researching just what “PSR” is and I ran into this adage: “Uphill Slow, Downhill Fast, Profits First, Safety Last”. Sounds like just another industry story of cut to the bone for max profit and all workers are just interchangeable “bio-bots” you can just throw into the system as you need them. No loyalty or recognition except to Wall Street.

  23. Micheal Engel says:

    1) Class #1 are the big ones. Class #2 are the regional. There are
    no guppies R/R in US, besides in the play grounds.
    2) Class #1 employees were hit when OPEC won the shale war.
    3) Class #1 employees plunged after the opening of Panama canal line #3.
    4) Class #1 mgt profit sent the R/R sector to a new bubble high, until
    mid May 2021, while labor reached nadir.
    5) Cry baby cry, NDX & DJUSRR diverge.
    6) This divergence will be rectified after NDX reach 15,200, when the music
    will stop for both.

    • Shiloh1 says:

      What’s are the metrics on building/running a petroleum pipeline vs railroading same? People, cost, safety/environment? Has Uncle Buffy run the numbers?

  24. John Kuhn says:

    They are getting exactly what they deserve. Zero loyalty from the company gets you zero employee loyalty in return

  25. Chris Herbert says:

    I think the word ‘productivity’ needs some academic work. CFOs claim that when they lay off employees and do some financial legerdemain, ‘productivity’ has been improved. I don’t think that enhances productivity. It may increase profits in the short term, but that type of thinking turns out to be a mistake. That thinking leaves companies ‘fragile’: Unable to bring forward reserve resources. Not resilient.

    • Tom S. says:

      Fragility doesn’t matter when there’s unlimited liquidity at the taxpayer expense.

  26. Winston says:

    And here’s a contributing factor to another cargo transport shortage which has been previously discussed here, but this reason not given:

    The number of U.S. truck drivers sidelined due to substance abuse violations has surpassed 60,000 and continues to climb by roughly 2,000-3,000 per month, according to federal data. The latest monthly report by the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration since January 2020, revealed that 60,299 CDL holders have a drug or alcohol violation recorded in the clearinghouse as of June 1, up from 57,510 as of May 1 and up from 18,860 recorded in the clearinghouse as of May 1, 2020.

    Marijuana consistently tops the list of substances identified in positive drug tests, far outpacing cocaine and methamphetamine, the second- and third-highest drug violations, respectively, among CDL holders.

    The number of violations now recorded in the clearinghouse stands out for another reason: It’s coincidentally just a few hundred shy of an estimated number of drivers needed to fill a shortfall of commercial drivers to keep pace with freight demand.

    “According to a recent estimate, the trucking industry needs an additional 60,800 truck drivers immediately — a deficit that is expected to grow to more than 160,000 by 2028,” testified American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear at a Capitol Hill hearing on freight mobility in May.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      Marijuana shows up in a drug test weeks after the last inhalation.
      A test for MJ is basically a life- style test, not a competency test.

    • Dan Romig says:


      When reading your comment, The Grateful Dead’s ‘Casey Jones’ started playing in my mind.

      “Driving that train, high on cocaine
      Casey Jones you better watch that speed
      Trouble ahead, trouble behind
      And you know that notion just crossed my mind”

      One of the fastest women in the world is not in Tokyo because of cannabis. And trucks aren’t rolling down the super-slab because of cannabis?

      Hell, I even quit smoking cannabis — of course, that’s just because I ran out of supply a couple months ago (illegal to grow at home or buy in Minnesota). I will say, that to me at least, cannabis and driving or riding bike or motorbike don’t mix well, and I don’t combine them as a matter of practice.

      But a couple of tokes doesn’t impair a person’s safety. A couple of drinks and safety is compromised.

      Alcohol leaves the system fairly quickly for testing; the others don’t. Go figure.

      • Winston says:

        Not my policy, I just stated the apparent facts. Widespread state-level legalization of MJ sales and “medical marijuana” make the problem worse. I agree that MJ tests can show use for a long period of time after use and alcohol doesn’t. Also, I doubt long-haul drivers are driving high on MJ since falling asleep is enough of a problem in that job without MJ’s effect on top of it.

        However, knowing that long term detection fact and the current policy of firing those who test positive, one would think that drivers who actually want to keep there jobs simply wouldn’t use pot just as those who wish to remain in the military wouldn’t. This tells me that there might be a morale problem with truck drivers related to their jobs – underpaid and overworked?

        • fajensen says:

          It’s a shitty, hard and depressing job, people needs something to lighten the load.

          And Everyone knows that when a place keeps firing, they need to keep hiring, meaning that drivers will get hired again and of course fired for the same thing, over and over. No matter, it’s not a career.

      • roddy6667 says:

        I was on a city bus in suburban CT on a very early run. At one stop a bus company supervisor in an SUV waved the driver off and replaced him with a different one. The first driver was taken to a place to test his urine for drugs and/or alcohol. If he had been out drinking until late, he would have enough blood alcohol to get fired. It’s a simple way to get rid of the boozers.

  27. Captain Obvious says:

    We all know what’s going to happen.

    Railroads will ask for a government bailout because the balance sheet is already in the red.

    Then they’ll use the money to pay themselves big bonuses instead of using the money to hire T&E employees, and provide them with incentives.

    And, taxpayers will be left with a bill to pay at the end of the night.

  28. JoeyC says:

    I work for NS currently. Not only do they cut jobs every other month, they cut pay also and our union does nothing about it! U wonder why these guys don’t want to come back to a shitty on call job for lesser pay. Its a no brainer.. I wish everyone that ditched the railroad the best of luck. Its a terrible job. Not worth killing yourself for 75k a year.

  29. Micheal Engel says:

    1) Old Dominion and JB Hunt market cap pale in comparison to
    UNP or CSX, but the R/R sector(DJUSRR) and the Trucking sector (DJUDTK)
    have similar charts.
    2) When oil was cheap, when labor was squeezes and Chinese export
    explode, profit rise for both.
    3) When WTI is high, when bottleneck are overextended, both sectors drop.
    4) Labor shortages send Total Assets Turnover down.
    5) Self driving trucks & trains are bs.

  30. Mark W says:

    It is a GREAT time to be young in one’s career, if you have the ambition to actually work. You could make leaps in responsibility and pay in days that might otherwise take years to achieve, in a more competitive environment.

    • aqius says:

      Mark W. of course you’ll be promoted quickly . . after the USS Titanic hits the iceberg

    • OutWest says:

      I would have given anything to have this job market when I was a kid getting started. A smart job hopper could move up quickly in this environment and work in a variety of fields.

  31. Swamp Creature says:

    Time to break up CSX and re-create the NY Central RR and Penn RR again. Take away all the subsidies. Raise fares to cover costs.

    • OutWest says:

      SC – careful what you ask for because you my get it one day.

      Take away RR subsidies and the industry would collapse over night. Take away farmers subsidies and the industry would collapse. From what I understand, very few US indistrusties could survive even a year without private/public arrangements but I could be wrong. Cheers

  32. Ty orton says:

    Here is the truth of it all. The railroads cut people. A lot of people all across the country. They changed their attendance policy so now if you want more than 3 weekends in a 90 day period they will fire you. They’ve made trains twice as long just to cut more people. They cannot recruit anyone because they have made such a bad name for themselves in these areas that no one is willing to work for them? Imagine a city of 15k and Yeah my buddy hired out for the railroad. He got fired or furloughed 6 months after being hired and 3 years later they are calling back now? Yeah the reputation is real high in these areas let me tell you. Who wants to sign up for bs. But hey you can make 60k. You are on call 24/7/365. You have and hour and half to get to work and oh if you need more than 3 24 hour days off in a 90 window you’re fired. We don’t care what the reason is. Your wife could bd in the hospital. You are still fired because we want to set an example so all the other employees are to scarred to lose their job. Welcome to 2021 railroads.

    • doug says:

      I have seen ads in our local paper that just started around here maybe 3 months ago for the RR and they described it pretty much as you say with ‘nicer’ words. I had never seen them before. They are large print ads. I was wondering what was going on. Now I know. Thanks.

  33. c1ue says:

    Anecdote from the ground:
    I’m moving next week. Pandemic related.
    I asked some of the people that loiter outside the UHaul location what the cost would be for a heavy furniture only move, 4th floor but elevator building.
    I was told $30/hour.
    I put an ad up on Craigslist for $20/hour, 2 hour minimum and 4 hour guesstimate plus I’d buy lunch.
    I have received more than 20 inquiries in less than 24 hours.
    To me – this is clear indication that it is the hourly rate – not anything else -which is why jobs aren’t being filled.
    Note SF minimum wage is $16.32/hour though I course the pay I give out is likely not going to be declared for taxes by recipients.
    $20/hr take home is probably $27/hr pre-tax.
    I also am seeing a 3br, “affordable housing” unit being advertised continuously for several weeks now. There are multiple tiers of “affordable housing” in SF; this one is near the top @110% of median income = $132K for a household of 2. Rent for this is $3200. The housing cost ratio for a max $132K earnings, post-tax, vs. the rent would be about 38%.
    This is “affordable”.

  34. Yort says:

    It would seem that we have a paradigm shift in how the “consumer-worker” views employment. It would seem that wage inflation is going to happen as this time is actually different than the last 30 years.

    Check out Bloomberg article today with some fascinating employment charts, search:

    Millennials Getting Raises Have Retiring Boomers to Thank

    With room to grow in the labor market, fewer Americans in the 20-64 age group could help boost pay on the lower end of the scale.

  35. They have railroads in India, and railroad engineers? Write them a visa. I am sure they would love to come to America and get away from Covid.

    • Harrold says:

      Have you seen the trains in India?

      Google a few pictures and prepare to be amazed.

  36. David Hall says:

    Intermodal transport is cheaper than long distance over the road trucking, else truckers would haul more containers and railroads fewer.

    Railroads burn less fuel per ton/mile making them ESG compatible.

    The amount of coal being hauled by rail is decreasing.

    Pipeline construction may take oil transport volume previously hauled by tanker car.

  37. Nemo 300 BLK says:

    As a manufacturer, I regrettably buy one product from China. That said, I had a container from China land in CA in early May 2021, and it was delivered today to my facility in GA!

    Their excuse for the last three months was a lack of rail car space. Once it hit Atlanta, it was another week to get it off the rail yard, to the shippers holding lot, then on to my operation.

    • David Hall says:

      Sometime ago someone wrote there was a lack of truckers to take containers out of port. Another claimed there is a lack of container ships.

      I think China closed low margin steel mills to drive the price of steel higher.

      China’s monopoly on rare earth minerals sent the price of rare earth permanent magnets higher.

      I did not think investing in Chinese companies was a good idea as they do not want foreigners to take money out of China. Some of these US listed China stocks are suffering after China trying to cut them off.

      • roddy6667 says:

        China closed a lot of older, dirtier steel mills as part of the 5 year plan to clean up the air. I would assume that old, dirty plants might be less efficient, also.

      • There’s a boom in direct investment in China, dollars on the ground, and that is inflationary.

    • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

      Interesting data. Frustration must have reached a boiling point. But unfortunately there is nothing you could do about it. The options are nil. That is what I feel is going to happen to all the down stream operators. Operators and receptionists with nothing to say other than “It is going as fast as it can. We really understand. We know how hard this is.”

      Sympathies sent into the void

  38. Mike says:

    Railroads starting to fall apart and the Government getting involved? Sounds like Atlas Shrugged. Which is concerning.

  39. Micheal Engel says:

    1) Buy your grandchildren an electric train kit, not FB or AAPLE stock,
    because in the long run R/R are B&H.
    2) High Tech rotate in QE liquidity bull trap.
    3) High Tech frog cooking will rotate, like a R/R kit, with one derailed cars at a time, due to the high speed, due to your eight year old operator.
    4) Today it’s China Tack, tomorrow perhaps AMZN or TSM.
    5) The FANG will be eliminated one pulse one at a time, while R/R circulate them, until their exhaustion.
    6) When your grandchildren will be in their twenties, R/R will revert to the mean and R/R will be opportunity to buy for the long run.

  40. Socal Rhino says:

    An obvious solution would be prison labor. That seems on trend.

    • Dan Romig says:

      My wife, Elizabeth Hawes, makes one dollar an hour working in the Shakopee, Minnesota women’s prison. She’s hoping to get a raise and bump it up to $1.25 per hour sometime soon.

      As a side job, she writes, and was recently published in Harper’s Bazaar, and had her PEN America prize-winning play ‘Supernova’ just podcast by Open Door Playhouse. The checks for her side job have to be sent to me though; rules and such.

      Irony: Her Harper’s Bazaar piece was about freedom; “I’ve Been Incarcerated for More than a Decade. Music and Literature Set Me Free.” -June 28, 2021

      Her perspective on her situation: “I am going to wake up here tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. What I do with each day is up to me.”

      • Socal Rhino says:

        A sibling completed a life sentence in prison. I found and read your wife’s piece in Harpers and found much that resonated in that thoughtful work.

  41. Gabby Cat says:

    I think the tide is turning. Most people believe executives making millions need to be demoted in pay to a few hundred thousand. The millions needs to be sent to the working class in which the lowest paid full time employees received a working salary to afford a home and a car that’s in great condition. Then maybe some executives will lower the cost of cars and homes to a reachable goal. The amount these companies payout in advertising and executive bonuses need to change. A good time for some moral people to open businesses that work like a family. Good time to start a business.

  42. A says:

    Its time the citizens of this country banded together against the 400 billionaire families that have been pushing us all around for decades and said “enough”.

    The story if railroad workers is the story of everyone in this comments section. Longer hours, frequent layoffs, lower pay and benefits and the only thing that ever changes is the tax rate on the billionaires goes down and the price for bailing out the rich after every disaster goes up.

    • Random guy 62 says:

      Agreed. Fixing this requires a larger uprising and change of mentality.

      We run a small/medium company and try to treat people fairly, but it is very difficult in a global marketplace. Those who are concerned only with cost eventually gain a significant advantage.

      There are a lot of business managers like us out here, but the system is not set up for us to win. Low cost usually wins. For every custom who claims they would pay more to support a moral company, there are 10 that don’t care, or simply aren’t paying attention.

      • Random guy 62 says:

        Customer*, not custom. Ducking autocorrect.

      • Trailer Trash says:

        “Fixing this requires a larger uprising and change of mentality.”

        The Greed Is Good philosophy is destroying the whole society. Where is the profit in squeezing vendors and customers so hard that they go out of business? Where is the profit in high employee turnover?

        So “Greed Is Good” must not be about profit. Seems to be more about control and feeling powerful by cutting everyone’s throat. Psychopaths at the top of the hierarchy must be replaced with actual human people. And soon.

  43. Micheal Engel says:

    Steve Hansen : the misleading Y/Y % change look great, but car loads 2021 started at a low level, slumped in week 7 to the lowest low, recovered and slumped again in week 27 to 2020 level, at this point.

  44. Canad says:

    Criminal negligence or “efficiency”?
    A train run by ONE man, who left the train to eat a meal.

    Mégantic rail disaster
    The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster occurred in the town of Lac-Mégantic, in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, Canada, at approximately 01:15 EDT, on July 6, 2013, when an unattended 73-car freight train carrying Bakken Formation crude oil rolled down a 1.2% grade from Nantes and derailed downtown, resulting in the fire and explosion of multiple tank cars.

  45. topcat says:

    From an article written in 2014….
    “When we had heavily regulated and taxed capitalism in the post-war era, the largest employer in America was General Motors, and they paid working people what would be, in today’s dollars, about $50 an hour with benefits. Reagan began deregulating and cutting taxes on capitalism in 1981, and today, with more classical “raw capitalism,” what we call “Reaganomics,” or “supply side economics,” our nation’s largest employer is WalMart and they pay around $10 an hour.”

    • ivanislav says:

      Post WW2 destruction, the US was in a commanding position to supply many manufactured goods, but other countries have rebuilt. Meanwhile, technology and automation has decreased the fraction of individuals that are in a position to contribute to wealth creation. Put those two facts together and it’s a prescription for wage decline in the US, even before you get into the myriad exacerbating issues.

    • Anthony A. says:

      And GM is now gm……..

  46. Auldyin says:

    Where do I sign up to drive a 5 x Co-Co 20k HP 60cyl GE Diesel consist over the Rocky Mountains please?
    I’ll do it for nothing so long as I get earmuffs and a good food box.
    Well, maybe a couple of times anyway.
    Cash is important but it’s not everything in a job, a loco engineer trained for years, had a job for life and was a pillar of the community in the old days. Now they hire and fire with demand.

  47. Polander says:

    I’d say 85% of those laid off in my area chose not to come back. Many of the guys that didn’t get laid off have left or are looking for different jobs. When you treat people lousy and jack them around enough don’t be shocked when they don’t like it. Own up to the shit show you yourself and your greed creates this.

  48. NotDeadYet says:

    My old Babushka once told me, “If you kill all your chickens, you will have no more eggs”. It looks like those Railroad employees have had enough and now the Railroad CEOs are upset with the results of their own making.
    Maybe those CEOs should have had an old Babushka too… and listened to her.

  49. Taxman100 says:

    I’m reached my mid 50’s, which in Corporate America means you are disposable, regardless of skills. I have enough saved for retirement, and so I looked at other options I have to avoid the dehumanizing soul crushing corporate world for the next 10 years.

    I was shocked to see how poor the working conditions were railroaders. I wouldn’t want the job for that pay with that much time away from home. Add having children in the home, and there is no way I would do that job. I’d take a lower paying job, and just not buy all the crap that advertising tells you to own.

    P.S. – regarding the whacking of older employees – young employees see what happens to long term employees, so they have absolutely ZERO loyalty, and have almost ZERO interest in working long hours. I rarely find a younger one around the office (or on-line) after 5 pm. I don’t blame them.

  50. Jake Phillips says:

    Lol Bnsf is totally doing it they are cutting locations turning some into road truck points and cutting people. I know I was one of the ones laid off in south East TX. when we were doing most of the volume of cars. Leadership that came down said they are not calling it precision railroad but that’s what’s happing. Loved the work loved the overtime but going to come in one minute saying y’all are keeping the company going due to the amount of cars in our area, then next come ins saying this location is going to a road truck point you have the option of going to these locations if your are not numbers 1-3 on seniority. The wife and I talked it over decided not to go to any of the locations and glad we didn’t. If we would of went to Amarillo we would of got laid off 7 months later. They were saying it was due to covid is crap. It was an excuse to do precision railroading with out saying that’s what it was. Loved the work but when you can’t trust the company then it’s time to jump ship and find something else. Also the union is worthless it honestly would probably be better going to non union.

  51. JMG says:

    Here’s a wild idea, James:

    Pay them more.

  52. alfie says:

    I didn’t work in the railroad industry, but in the packing house industry and everything that I’ve read so far sounds real familiar. I left after 40 yrs because of a new young supervisor
    ( and new management ) who thought he / they knew more than everyone else.

  53. Edward Johnson says:

    I have been with the railroad industry all my working life, both in management and on the ground as a trainman and clerk. I am now an unpaid railroad advocate and also know their history very well.
    There is much misinformation on the commenters of this post. I can tell you that the Federal regulators have kept the railroad industry on its knees since 1910 with virtually no government help since then. The Staggers Act of 1980 created the rebirth of the industry, but it has always been the finest freight railway system in the World and still is. Of the big 4, only the BNSF has expanded their plant, the other 3 have shrunk it.

  54. Edward Johnson says:

    If I am allowed to further comment: Since the creation of the BNSF in 1995, they have rebuilt and added a 2 and 3 main track super railway between LA and Chicago with complete Centralized Train Control and Positive Train Control, entirely at their own expense. Only they can run 2 and 3 mile long trains on this railroad freeway without having to worry about siding capacity. Only BNSF can reach from all West Coast Ports to Atlanta and with the only intermodal trains running through Chicago, all the way to Northwest Ohio.
    They started behind the UP in total unit volume but latest available figures show the BNSF now handles over 30% more unit volume per week than the UP (200,000 units vs 154,300). Intermodal volume: the BNSF with 110,000 units vs the UP with only 70,800 units.
    The CSX, NS and UP have been answering to Wall Street, the BNSF has been answering only to Warren Buffet for over10 years. What a huge impact a difference in philosophies make!
    The railroads have had unions since the 19th century. They maybe somewhat weaker now, but what part of U.S. industry even has them!
    Its obvious that PSR only benefits Wall Street and CEO’s (for now), but no one else. I firmly believe that if CEO’s Robert Krebs, Matt Rose, and current owner, Warren Buffet, had not expanded the BNSF, and took the route of the other big 3, U.S. shippers would now be on their knees.

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